The Texas sun was setting quickly over the edge of the horizon. The light cascades off of the few clouds that were in the sky, creating an orange and pink haze. A basic white plastic lawn chair sits on a small rise in an old pasture. The new owners at The Byrd Ranch were still constructing a home in the middle of the property. They had neglected the edges of the property, and Clay was able to find his way in through a hole in the fence. The Behemoth sat in the redneck la-z-boy watching the end of another west Texas day. Since Iconic, Clay had set up somewhat of a camp out on the edge of the former Byrd ranch. When the bell had finished ringing in Chicago, The Monster from Plainview had been nowhere to be found. There were no post match comments, there was no presser, he simply vanished into the void.
Everything he’d fought for, everything he’d wanted was right there. He could feel it, he could taste it, all he had to do was lock back the left arm and bring it forward as hard as he possibly could. The same scenario that had presented itself over and over again throughout the year, he just needed to execute like he had done all year.
The steel chair clattered to the concrete floor. He watched it bounce, once, twice, then there was darkness. Moments later his eyes opened, it felt like they had been closed for hours. He saw Dan Ryan’s smug face, grinning like the Cheshire cat. Instinct took over and he shoved Ryan’s knee off of his chest and he rolled to his own knee. His eyes darted from one set of ropes to the other. He scanned for America, and finally he saw him, laying in the center of the ring, the World Heavyweight Championship clutched in his grasp.
He watched Ryan slowly help America to his feet, and the adrenaline evaporated from his body as reality seeped in to replace it. The soul crushing reality of the situation. Ryan and America celebrated as The Behemoth rolled out of the ring. He clutched the back of his head and his midsection. Each step up the ramp became more difficult. He stumbled a quarter of the way up the ramp, his body pulled to the ground by failure.
He looked back as the music played and Christopher America was struggling to stand with Ryan’s assistance and had to back his way up against ropes. The World Heavyweight Champion leaned against the ropes, causing them to flex. He wobbled for a moment, but once his eyes had left the title and the mat, they stared forward, they stared ahead. They stared at him.
He heard himself talking to Tillinghast, his own voice echoed through his head in that moment and he could hear it now.
“Or, I’m gonna get pinned in the middle of the ring by a smarter, better wrestler.”
They echoed as he stared into America’s eyes. It all happened in an instant, but for the first time in his life, Clay felt himself look down at the ground avoiding eye contact. He had balled his hands into fists and stood back up to his feet. He turned back towards the HoV with his proverbial ‘tail tucked between his legs.’
The Behemoth snarls in his chair, the scene playing in his head for the ten thousandth time. The images had burned their way into his brain, his frontal lobe resembled an LED that had been left on the same channel for far too long. Another aluminum beer can is crushed and sent with a clatter into a pile of other cans. The Monster claws his way out of the plastic chair and wobbles his way to the back of his F250.
I’m going to hurt you in a few days. I’m not going to hurt you because you wronged me, I’m not going to hurt you because you wish ill will upon me. I’m not going to hurt you because you hate everything that is High Octane Wrestling. I’m going to hurt you because I need to hurt you.
See Brandon, sitting around, staring off into the vast stretches of nothingness, with only my misery and my pain. It makes me want to hurt me, it makes me want to reach out and grab a knife and stab it into my chest. I’m angry Brandon, and I’ve been angry for a long time. Everyday I wake up under contract to Lee Best, I’m livid. Every day that I wake up with little choice, I’m furious. Every day Brandon, this is my life, every fucking day.
Let me guess, I should just ‘walk away’ right? I should just pack up my bag, throw it in the back of my truck, and drive over to whatever city Lindsay Troy is bringing the fucking circus too. Because I deserve better, right? Because I deserve something more?
I don’t deserve a fucking thing Brandon.
I don’t deserve to sit here and watch this sunset, I don’t deserve to relax and try to collect my thoughts. I deserve to suffer, I deserve to wallow in my misery. Because I’m fucking weak Brandon, I’m too god damned weak. I’m too weak minded, I’m too fucking stupid. I couldn’t see it in front of me, I couldn’t see it right under my nose. I couldn’t see my best friend decide to betray me. Best friend? I’m understating. I couldn’t tell the only person I’ve ever considered my brother was going to betray me.
That’s how useless I am Brandon, that’s how fucking awful I am.
I think about it when I go to sleep at night. I think about the time I spent with Solex and his family. I think about the night I saved little Stevens-Solex Junior and brought him back to Steve. I think about all the good times, living in his bomb shelter, the last time I had a roof over my head. Drinking beer on the front porch.
I think about all of it, Brandon.
And I can’t stop.
I told everyone I was going to beat Christopher America, I told the entire world I was going to rip the High Octane World Heavyweight Championship from his fucking grasp and take a big steaming shit down his throat. I was going to dominate him, destroy him, massacre him. I was going to be the best in the fucking world, I was going to be the one man that could stand up for what this company should be. I was going to be the guy. I was going to get my fucking revenge. I was going to lead my team into the heart of hell, and we were going to come out stronger.
And I fucking believed it Brandon, I believed every last drop of it. I was drinking my own kool-aid like the big red man himself burst through the wall and helped me make it. I believed I could change the world, that I could make this place better, that I could make it some place fucking respectable. I believed I could conquer my demons, I believed I could grab Christopher America by the neck and shake myself free of the shadow of Mike Best. I believed I could heal my broken arm from Iconic 2021. I believed if I stomped Christopher America into dust, that I’d be the standard bearer. That I’d be some type of locker room leader like Conor Fuse professes to be.
I believed it, I believed it all. I was the gullible fuck watching television at three o’clock in the morning. When the salesman came on and said ‘but wait there’s more!’ I picked up the phone and dialed whatever number flashed across the screen. Probably something like 1-888-DIP-SHIT.
For all the belief, for all the positive manifestation, do you know what my reward was? All of my effort, every favor I’ve ever had in this place, swirling down a drain of despair. That’s where I’m at Brandon, I fucking hate myself. I fucking hate how fucking gullable I am, I hate how fucking stupid I am. I hate my fucking beard, I hate my fucking hair, I hate my fucking hat. I hate this stupid fucking truck, I hate this dumb fucking skull and snake on my ring gear, I hate this fucking sunset.
I hate them because they’re mine.
I hate them because I can claim them.
I hate them because I own them.
I hate them because I hate me.
And when I look at you Brandon, when I look into your eyes, when I watch you on television, when I see how you wrestle and see how you move. When I see you fucking talk, when I see you mumble, grumble and stumble. When I watched you extract your vengeance over that poor French kid. I see it Brandon.
I see the thing I hate. I see the thing I want to destroy. I see the thing I want to fucking break. I see the thing I need to eliminate.
I see me.
The sun had finished its journey over the horizon. The darkness has set in, and with it a damp chill has filled the air. The firepit sits flameless only the ash of previous campfires keep the stones company. The Behemoth sits in the plastic chair staring off towards the horizon. He didn’t feel like eating, food was an enjoyment, his hunger pains satiated his appetite for self destruction.
And that’s all that truly mattered. At least at that moment.
He slams through another red can of Budweiser, he rubs the flannel on his arms trying to warm himself up, the cold penetrates through the flannel quickly though. With not eating, not preparing the campsite the only option The Monster has is to go to sleep. But in his sleep are where the true monsters lurk.
They all make their home there.
The Behemoth isn’t a big dreamer, most of the time he closes his eyes and it feels like he blinks his way forward in time. But lately, they seem to be there every night. Everytime he shuts his eyes, even if for a moment, he can see all of them. America clutching the World Heavyweight Championship, Solex laughing as he turned his back on The Highwaymen.
They haunt him in his dreams like his father used to haunt his waking thoughts. He’d trade a Max Kael microchip for these feelings any day of the week. At least then he wouldn’t be in control, at least then he wouldn’t have to observe all the absurdity, all of the bullshit and murders would be well worth it compared to the feeling of inadequacy.
He makes his way out of the chair and wanders over to the truck again, this isn’t another run to refill the cooler beside the lawn furniture. This time he crawls into the cab and stretches out as well as he can. He lays there silent, his mind replaying the thoughts of Iconic through his head still.
They don’t go away, they will stay for the rest of the night. Better men pray their way through these situations. Better men drink their way through their problems. Better men talk to therapists to get through their issues. He shuts his eyes and tries to think back to being a child unable to fall asleep.
He tries to count sheep, he makes it to thirty-three before he gives up.
He tries to think about nothing, but Christopher America’s smug grin is there waiting for him.
“I guess Pa was right, there ain’t no rest fer the wicked,” Clay mumbles as he pulls his hat down over his eyes. He wanted to sleep so badly, but the world kept pulling him back out of fear, out of terror. The nightmares scare him, just the thought of them pulls at his skin. The last one he had been planning on giving Dan Ryan the what for, but as he stood across from his enormous peer, he tried to speak. The words never came out, and he had fought to speak over and over. His tongue just wouldn’t move. It wasn’t full body paralysis, but his mouth and speaking in the dream had refused him. It moved and mumbled, but he could never complete the sentence until he would shoot awake in the seat of the F250.
His eyes ache, the weariness causing them to sting. He looks out over the hood of the F250 into the darkness. The pale light of the moon illuminates the field. He sighs and tries to get comfortable. Even though he doesn’t deserve comfort.
Friday night, December 16th I sat down inside of my hotel room in Chicago and turned on PWA-TV. Bergman and I had been working on the plan for America for weeks at that point, everything was sorted, everything was handled. I needed something to stimulate my mind, I needed something to dig my teeth into, I needed to see something different, something new.
There comes a point where you exhaust your ability to prepare. There isn’t any more tape to study, there isn’t anything new to find in the endless hours of research. So what else could I do? I turned on Colossus and watched the night unfold from Madison Square Garden. I watched it all Brandon, I saw Bobby Dean seemingly absorb two men, I watched Jared Sykes and Paxton Ray try to kill each other.
And I watched you.
That Five Star Title match was below you, you’re the pillar of PRIME. The Wrestler of The Year, you belonged in the main event. Yet there you were, tying up with two young kids trying to find their way and with some crazy bearded bastard. I needed to know what all the hype was about, I needed to know what all the fans had clamored for. I had to see it for myself, so I watched, and I watched.
I saw you grab that kid and hold him back while the Colton boy pinned the crazy fuck. I watched the smile etch across your face as you pulled him out of the ring, I saw your eyes light up as you yanked him away from breaking up that pinfall.
You and I, Brandon, we aren’t all that different.
Sure, you have a happy family life at home, spending time with an old friend. Sure, you’ve actually climbed to the top of the mountain of our profession and you were declared the best to do it. Sure you’re a Hall of Famer and just like my old man I’ll probably never reach those heights. But I’m not talking about our accomplishments, or who we fuck, Brandon. I’m talking about what came over you in that moment. I’m talking about the spite, the retribution that consumed you.
That emotion, our mutual sin; Vengeance.
It’s all too familiar Brandon, it’s what you wake up to, it’s what you go to sleep too. The redhead lady doesn’t make that go away, nobody can. It’s your real love, it’s the thing you care the most about, it’s the thing you’ll break your principles for. It’s the thing you’ll give up every last fucking thing for. It’s why I’m single Brandon, it’s why I won’t climb to the top, it’s why I’m forever mired in my own mediocrity.
It’s powerful, it’s all encompassing, it’s all controlling. Some people are addicted to substances, some gambling, you and I, were addicted to revenge. We both know FLAMBERGE would have broken up that pinfall, he would have stopped that referee from delivering a three count. You could have won that match, you could have claimed your second championship of The ReVival era. Instead you grabbed his leg and yanked him back out of that ring, not because it was going to help you win, not because it was going to get you a step closer to the championship you were competing for. But because it was going to take it away from him.
I understand that Brandon, I’d have done the same thing. I’d have cost myself the match, and done it happily, if it meant America didn’t get to walk out of the ring at Iconic as World Heavyweight Champion. But in that moment, you and I both know you gave into your darkside. The pillar of PRIME, the paragon of good guys, the man that signed the forever contract. You grabbed that boy’s leg and stopped him from completing his dream. Because he’d taken your dream from you.
I can respect that Brandon.
I relate to it. I understand it. When I look at you, I see the broken parts of me on full display. I see all your flaws etched across the wrinkles on your face. I’ll look into your eyes in Anaheim and I’ll be looking in the mirror. And that’s why I have to destroy you. Because I deserve to be destroyed, I deserve to be broken and beaten down. I deserve to be smashed into a million little pieces.
I deserve all the punishment that I can possibly handle, and punishing you Brandon, it’s like punishing a happier version of me. It’s like punishing a version of me that actually was successful in his mission, that had managed to succeed at one point. It’s punishing a version of me that gets to go to bed at night with a smile, that gets to be proud of what he is and who he is. That gets to feel the small arms of a woman wrap around his body, that gets to feel the consoling embrace of his friends as he walks to the back.
I get to destroy a version of me that doesn’t know it needs to be destroyed yet. I get to be my own executioner.
You have no idea how bad I want to be that. You have no idea the pain running through my body day in, and day out. The thoughts that rifle through my brain every waking moment, you don’t know how emotionally numb I’ve felt since Iconic, you don’t know how humbled I felt that night. I couldn’t achieve anything I set my mind to, I couldn’t complete my mission. I didn’t get to drag America away from the World Heavyweight Championship.
All I have left is my vengeance. I don’t have people that love me. They left me. I don’t have friends who care for me. They left. They left me to deal with my own failures, and they knew what I’d do. They all know how self-destructive I am. They all know how broken my mental health is. They all knew, Brandon. And they left me here anyway, alone, to my own devices.
They left me here because I deserve it, they left me here because I don’t deserve their love, because I don’t deserve their affection. When I walked through that curtain, nobody was there to console me, nobody was there to put their arm around me and tell me we’d go get them next time. They left me because it was the right thing to do, they left me alone, they left me to take care of me.
My revenge? I’m not upset at Dan Ryan. I’m not upset at Christopher America. That night in Chicago, Chris was the better man. He found a way to win the match, he found a way to put my shoulders on the mat. Because I’m fucking garbage, because I’m fucking trash, because I can’t think outside of the stupid box I’ve hemmed myself in with. They left because of my fears, because of my paranoia, because it took over everything.
My revenge is focused on the person that caused it, and the people like him.
My revenge is focused on me.
I’m sorry I have to ruin whatever happiness you’ve cobbled together, I’m sorry I have to crack you like a fucking egg. I’m sorry I have to put your shoulders to the mat to achieve that, I’m sorry that I have to win for Lee Best. I’m sorry that I have to do this.
But I need this Brandon, I need this more than anything. Some people need therapy, some people need someone to talk to, they need someone to listen. I need someone else to understand how I feel, I need someone that will get it, I need someone that will feel these same fucking feelings.
I need you.
I need to rip you apart so you understand.
I need to break you physically, I need to break you mentally.
I need you to know your mission, just like mine, isn’t over.
You can’t be happy, because I can’t be fucking happy Brandon. You can’t have the world at the end of the rainbow, you can’t have what I don’t have. You can’t be driven like me and have all the things I want.
It’s not fair.
So I’ll break you down, I’ll destroy you, I’ll plant the seed of doubt that grows into retribution. I’ll let it envelope you, I’ll let it consume you. I’ll make sure when you feel Amy Campbell’s arms wrap around you, they feel cold and unwelcome. I’ll make sure I’m the only fucking thing you can think about at night, I’ll make sure PWA1 is everything you don’t fucking want it to be. I’ll make sure it fucking haunts you. You’ll remember this night in Anaheim like you remember the Tropical Turmoil where you tried to kill Nova. You’ll remember this night in Anaheim when one of those Chicago sons of bitches you talked so much shit on took you to task. Everytime you come through Southern California, you’ll think of nothing but me.
Because that’s what we deserve Brandon. We don’t deserve what you have, we can’t have it, we shouldn’t be allowed to have it. Everyone wants this to be the battle of two Wrestlers of the Year, they want this to be some clash of titans. Some altercation of Icons, two Colossus’ colliding. In theory, in name it’ll be that. But in all actuality? It’s one broken man reminding another that he’s still broken too.
On January 14th I’m going to change your life forever.
Because maybe it’ll change mine.
See you in Anaheim.